Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Jordan Kaplan, an associate in our Roseland office:

On January 21, 2014, Governor Christie signed S2995 into law, an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which prohibits employment discrimination against pregnant women and those who suffer medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.  This bill is to take effect immediately.

The bill amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to specifically include “pregnancy” as a protected class under the law.  The pregnancy classification is not limited to women presently carrying a child, but also: pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth.  Accordingly, employers may be liable under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination if the employer knows, or should know, that a woman is affected by pregnancy and the woman is treated in a manner less favorable than others who are not affected by pregnancy, but similarly situated in their ability to perform. 

8363163_sThe amendment further provides that an employer must make available reasonable accommodations in the workplace to women affected by pregnancy, so long as the requests do not put an undue hardship on the business operations of the employer.  The law offers examples of reasonable accommodations that an affected employee may request, including: bathroom breaks; breaks for increased water intake; periodic rest; assistance with manual labor, job restructuring or modified work schedules; and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work.  The amendment does not specifically require leave as an accommodation, but does note that leave must be given to a pregnant employee in the same manner as employees not affected by pregnancy but who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

However, if the employer can show that providing reasonable accommodations would impose undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business, the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations would not apply.  Factors to consider whether providing accommodations imposes an undue hardship on the employer’s business include: (1) the overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees; (2) number and type of facilities, and size of budget; (3) the type of the employer’s operations, including the composition and structure of the employer’s workforce; (4) the nature and cost of the accommodation needed; and (5) the extent to which the accommodation would involve a waiver of an essential job requirement.

Employers should insure that all leave and light duty policies are reviewed to insure compliance with the law.